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‘The Purge’ – Really shit until you consider the politics, but then it’s still pretty shit

I went to see The Purge yesterday with very low expectations, which were definitely met. The plot was one-dimensional, acting and action forgettable, and the ‘twist’ at the end wasn’t in the least surprising. If you have a cinema membership like I do where you can see unlimited films then you should see it just to see it, but otherwise I wouldn’t waste the money.

However still The Purge touches on some interesting class and race politics within our own society. The Purge is about a future in America in which unemployment is at 1% and the crime rate is near inexistent, except for 1 night out of the year where all crime is legalised. This annual Purge is passed to the population as a necessity in order to maintain prosperity and safety because of the existence of violent human nature. The plot of The Purge then follows one upper-middle class family’s experience of the Purge, in which one child’s compulsion to let a man screaming for help inside their locked-down home leads to a night of terror when the group of rich kids terrorising the man come knocking on the door, threatening to kill them all if they don’t give up the man.

The first thing I take issue with is the presumption of a violent human nature. Human nature, as studies have often found, is pretty limited to a few basics of survival based on group well-being. Human nature is adaptability, and one of the major reasons humans are so successful is because of his adaptability and also because of our great community building and altruism. Of course we are violent, all animals I can think of are, but this isn’t any more inherent in us than our nature to be cooperative.

However, if you stop mindlessly watching the film for a second and actually listen to the radio and television broadcasts in the film you can see that there may be more to the story, and that this idea of violent human nature may be a cover up for something else. All the footage that they showed of past Purges in which I could recognise race and class, the attackers were very often white and middle or working class. There were debates about how upper middle class Americans were able to spend exorbitant amounts of money on incredible security systems and were therefore protected, whilst working classes, lower classes, the homeless, and the elderly were much more at risk of being attacked. Actual broadcasts voiced opinions that the Purge was a tool to rid the country of ‘undesirables’ – no wonder the unemployment rate is 1%, the rich people are killing all the unemployed people.

The rich kids knocking on the family’s door that night specifically called the man they harboured a homeless pig, swine, undesirable. The ringleader called his group the ‘haves’, and talked about how they needed to rid the country of the have-nots, the people who don’t contribute to society. And since race is intricately linked with class, we can see how race would also be a huge issue within this dystopian America. Ethan Hawke, who played the father in the film, actually had the same interpretation and likened it to the murder of Trayvon Martin.

The way the politics comes into play is pretty poor, and it’s just a very weak film. We still cheer on the upper class family whilst the homeless black man they shelter is an afterthought. However, it’s an interesting extrapolation of the sort of disdain much of America, and the UK for that matter, have for the unemployed, the disabled, and the elderly. I’d be interested to see some better renditions of this sort of political extrapolation, maybe from the subject position of a disadvantaged class.

Loneliness is a strangle hold.

Loneliness feeds on itself, taking in the parts of you that you hold most dear and bastardising it, throwing it back at you when it’s become unrecognisable. Loneliness feels like a stormy ocean. It’s a brick wall. It’s a ball and chain.

Sometimes loneliness feels like my only companion. Oftentimes it is.

19 of 52 – 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism

I’ve had a lot of essays and an exam at the end of the year so it’s been a bit too much to do lots of reading, but I’m going to try to get back into it. I still really want to finish 52 books. I have a few shorter, easier reads lined up so hopefully I’ll catch up.

But I finished the book 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang, a Korean economist.

Thing 1: There is no such thing as free market.
Thing 4: The washing machine has changed the world more than the Internet.
Thing 5: Assume the worst about people, and you get the worst.
Thing 13: Making rich people richer doesn’t make the rest of us richer.
If you’ve wondered how we did not see the economic collapse coming, Ha-Joon Chang knows the answer: We didn’t ask what they didn’t tell us about capitalism. This is a lighthearted book with a serious purpose: to question the assumptions behind the dogma and sheer hype that the dominant school of neoliberal economists-the apostles of the freemarket-have spun since the Age of Reagan.
The book was pretty interesting. Some bits were tedious, I guess because I’m not so interested in certain parts. And there were bits that went over my head a little. But a lot of it contained things that I knew, but with evidence towards those things. This isn’t an anti-capitalist book. It’s just against what we call ‘free market capitalism’, and explains why. I’m quite burnt out by economics now though, so I need some fiction for a while.

Prejudice, Discrimination, and Racism Explained

I didn’t write this. But I read these definitions from RacismSchool’s Tumblr, which posted this excerpt from a DailyKos article about ‘reverse racism’, and I think it’s important to know the definitions of all three and how they interrelate:

Prejudice is an irrational feeling of dislike for a person or group of persons, usually based on stereotype.  Virtually everyone feels some sort of prejudice, whether it’s for an ethnic group, or for a religious group, or for a type of person like blondes or fat people or tall people.  The important thing is they just don’t like them — in short, prejudice is a feeling, a belief.  You can be prejudiced, but still be a fair person if you’re careful not to act on your irrational dislike.

Discrimination takes place the moment a person acts on prejudice.  This describes those moments when one individual decides not to give another individual a job because of, say, their race or their religious orientation.  Or even because of their looks (there’s a lot of hiring discrimination against “unattractive” women, for example).  You can discriminate, individually, against any person or group, if you’re in a position of power over the person you want to discriminate against.  White people can discriminate against black people, and black people can discriminate against white people if, for example, one is the interviewer and the other is the person being interviewed.

Racism, however, describes patterns of discrimination that are institutionalized as “normal” throughout an entire culture. It’s based on an ideological belief that one “race” is somehow better than another “race”.  It’s not one person discriminating at this point, but a whole population operating in a social structure that actually makes it difficult for a person not to discriminate.

Does makeup make me less feminist?

It’s a question I think most young woman-identified feminists now deal with, but I’ve decided to have a serious thought process on it now because of an article I read in the New York Times1 about makeup, motherhood, and feminist guilt. It’s definitely worth a read, though with a critical eye.

Both men and women are participate in constant body work. However, I’d argue that for women, the work required in order to be an accepted member of society is a much more rigid, unyielding version. Michel Foucault once spoke of the process in which individuals become objects, or docile bodies, through processes of self-surveillance based on discourses of what is considered normal and abnormal2. Feminism critiques Foucault’s gender-neutral version of docile bodies, as women’s bodies are expected to be more docile.

Modern femininity is linked with three restrictions of the body which modern masculinity is not. First, femininity is characterised by smallness of body. Women are not meant to take up more space than required, therefore women who do not conform to this are chastised, if not by people around her then by the rest of society. Second, femininity entails a certain reluctance in gesture, movement, and posture. The final way, and the way I’ll actually be discussing, is by the necessity of ornamentation. This includes the pressure to wear makeup, have good skin care, have good hair care, and get rid of body hair3.

Makeup, therefore, is politicised by the feminist movement. The daily process of makeup is expensive, time consuming, and probably unhealthy. It perpetuates the idea that in order to be desired, a woman must be made up. Even now a lot of men say they prefer women without makeup, but I wonder how many of them are tricked into believing ‘no makeup-makeup’ is actually a clean face. Slightly deceitful, and raises the bar too high.

However!

I wear makeup. And I love makeup. And sometimes that comes with a bit of guilt. Mostly it comes with an empty wallet. Yes, I have a problem, and I’m taking steps to fix it. However I don’t honestly think that wearing makeup makes a person any less feminist, even if the makeup process is oppressive. I’m not going to sit here and say I freely choose to wear makeup. I don’t think I do. But when reading on other people’s opinions about feminism and makeup I found this:

You can’t socialize someone into liking something and then ostracize them for liking it. 4

Obviously feminists understand that gender roles and the gender binary are socially constructed (Some people don’t like the idea that gender itself is socially constructed, though I would argue that it is. I think a lot of people who disagree probably haven’t studied too much sociology. Maybe I’ll write about it another time.). It is immensely important to understand the process by which this happens, and I believe many feminists take the work into trying to piece it together. It is also so important to challenge these norms and to create dialogue about why we do and think certain things. It’s SO important, as a feminist, to critically examine your reason for doing certain things. I wear makeup because I was socialised to. I was socialised to enjoy the ritual, and I do enjoy it. I haven’t gotten to the point of self-love where I’ve been able to fully forgo my foundation and mascara.

It is fundamentally and horribly wrong to criticise any woman for wearing makeup or for not wearing makeup. We need to criticise our own choices and be real with ourselves. I could sit here and say I choose makeup freely because I know the negatives and do it anyway, but by saying that I believe we’re trying to differentiate ourselves from non-feminist identifying women who wear makeup. By othering non-feminist women, we’re saying they’re under a false consciousness (which they may well be), when one never knows whether that person does think about the negatives but still chooses it. For all anyone knows, our thought processes are similar.

We need to teach radical self-love, and there is a conflict when the person teaching it has perfectly coifed hair and a beautifully made up face. But we shouldn’t blame women for wanting these things when we’ve been told to want them from the moment the doctor looked between our legs at birth. Feminism should not succumb to self-righteousness, but embrace sympathy and empathy and keep teaching informed analysis.

References

1 Makeup, and Feminist Guilt, at 13
2 Nash, K. (2010) Contemporary Political Sociology. p22-23.
3 Bartky, S.L. (1988) ‘Foucault, Femininity, and Patriarchal Power’ in Diamond, I. and Quinby, L. (eds) Feminism and Foucault. p.65-71.
4 Warning: Feminist Wearing Makeup Ahead. Look Both Ways Before Crossing.

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